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Designing eLearning Interactions May 29, 2007

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , ,

I’ve written articles about making sure learning experiences are engaging, but I haven’t written much on how to actually build the interactions that make an experience engaging. So let’s dive in…

What is an eLearning interaction?

An eLearning interaction is an exercise or activity that allows the learner to become more involved with the material, as opposed to simply reading text on the screen. An interaction is often a scenario where the learner is presented with a story or a problem that they must work through in order to achieve a certain outcome. This allows the learner to become more involved with the content, with the hopes that the interaction will help them better process, encode, and store the material in memory. We anticipate that the learner will have a better chance at retaining the information and transferring it to their job if they are more involved and engaged in the learning.

When should you use interactions?

Interactions should be added throughout an eLearning course as you see fit. I personally try to sprinkle one in every 4 pages – or one for every 10-15 minutes of learning. Add enough interactions to keep your learners’ interest, and keep the type of content in mind: if the material is dry and boring, use more interactions. For a good overview of how (and when) to use interactions, I highly recommend "e-Learning and the Science of Instruction," by Ruth Clark and Richard E. Mayer.

Good interaction vs. bad interaction

Just because the learner is clicking their mouse doesn’t mean they are benefiting from the learning experience. A significant amount of design still needs to take place on your part to make interactions effective. This is difficult. Have the learner apply the skills they learned. Don’t just let them slide by with a multiple-choice question. Challenge them! Get their brains working! Present problems that they must solve through a series of choices. (Remember the old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books? The theory behind those books can be a great inspiration for designing eLearning interactions.)

A (free) white paper is available from Entelisys Technologies called "eLearning: From Level I to Level IV of Interactivity." This is a great resource for helping you choose the right level of interactivity for your eLearning. Four basic levels are outlined: Level 1 (Passive), Level 2 (Limited Interaction), Level 3 (Complex Interaction), and Level 4 (Real-time Interaction). Aim for levels 2 and 3; that’s the sweet spot. Level 4 is great to achieve, but difficult to reach. That’s just my opinion. 🙂

How do you build eLearning interactions?

You can use tools such as Articulate Engage, Adobe Captivate, or Lectora (by Trivantis) to build eLearning interactions. Engage offers some great templates for building interactions, but as far as I can tell you’re limited to these built-in templates. Captivate and Lectora are open authoring environments. While they may require a bit more effort to learn, they allow for more possibilities. All three companies offer free trial versions of their software. Take each for a test drive and choose whichever tool best fits your needs.

Try new things

Don’t be afraid to get creative and try to build new eLearning interactions. Spend a good amount of time in the design phase. Get crazy on a whiteboard and toss ideas around. Grab a few sample users and get their input. Build a few prototypes and go with what gets the best feedback. You certainly can’t lose anything by brainstorming. Give it a shot and try to come up with inventive ways to keep the learner involved with the material. Your learners will thank you for it!

More ideas coming soon…

I’m working on a list of 25 ideas for eLearning interactions. I hope to have it ready in a few weeks and I’ll post them here. Until next time…


1. Sindy - January 15, 2008

Just wondering if you compiled your list of 25 ideas for eLearning interactions. Would love to review it. Keep me posted.

2. B.J. Schone - January 15, 2008

Hi Sindy,

You can find my eBook here. It contains the 25 ideas for eLearning interactions. I hope you enjoy it!

3. Puloma - December 5, 2008

You can also add interactivities to your elearning courses with Raptivity which has a pre-built library of 200+Learning Interactions which gives you much more variety and options over Articulate Engage.


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